Felt pretty good walking into my 9:55 class this morning -- I got up around 4am to grade papers, managed to get through all but two of them, and had the rest of the day well-planned out: deliver sermonizing final lecture (from here on out we have student oral presentations on their research projects) in my methodology class (two take-home messages: don't mix methodologies because this produces philosophical incoherence; and keep science and politics as logically separate endeavors by not conflating empirical research with political advocacy); teach day one of my planned three-day treatment of Tzvetan Todorov's The Conquest of America in my world politics class; meet with a Ph.D. student who is going off to a job talk; hold two hours of office hours meeting with students; spend an hour grading the final two papers and e-mail them back; do some miscellaneous errands for an hour or so and then head home.

Got into my office, dropped off my coat and bag, headed downstairs. Sermonizing lecture went fine -- I think I made my point and also got some appropriate laughter. Ate my yogurt during the break between classes, came back into the classroom to begin the discussion about Todorov -- but when I started asking about Columbus, I got some blank stares, some averted gazes, and a little muttering. Finally someone asked, "are we supposed to have read that yet?" "Sure," I said, "it says so in the syllabus." Someone else brought up the syllabus and contradicted me, showing that the syllabus in fact said that today was supposed to be transnationalism and environmentalism, with Todorov beginning on Friday.


It took me several minutes to re-tool and get us into a discussion of whether there could be meaningful global solutions to problems like AIDS and greenhouse gas emissions without having some major power impose the solutions on recalcitrant others, and whether this posed a moral problem of any significance. We eventually got so some interesting places, but it was not the best performance of my career. for a moment I seriously considered canceling class, actually -- once I'm in a mode for having a certain discussion it's very hard to shift gears radically and have another conversation about very different material. I think we survived, but it wasn't pretty.

Afterwards, I figured out what happened: last year the major development simulation was only two days, so I was able to do transnationalism before Thanksgiving break and devote three of the final four class sessions to Todorov, saving the last day for a wrap-up and send-off. Got to return to that plan next year -- probably by cutting something else earlier in the semester.

Probably one of the most embarrassing moments in my teaching career to date, however.

[Posted with ecto]

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